Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster Today
Parliament is besotted by itself by Derek Wyatt
In the middle of September, the nation became animated by the Scottish referendum and its outcome. It refreshed and reached parts of the democratic process in a way which had not been reached before.
Between the result and the Conference season kicking in, the only suggestions on a new constitutional settlement was the confirmation of more power to Scotland (“Devo-Max”) by all three parties and the possibility of English MPs only being allowed to vote on English matters which for some odd reason had Labour frothing at the mouth.
Ed Miliband did suggest a Constitutional Convention but was silent about it in Manchester. The PM reiterated English votes ofr English laws in Birmingham. Of course, voters want a convention and the lessons of the Scottish referendum have already appear to have been filed in the waste paper basket.
Unsurprisingly, it hardly featured at the party conferences. It was if there had been a collective sigh of relief that Scotland had stayed in the union and so it was back to business as usual. It felt like a return to the “old-boy-network-closed-door-Whitehall-scenario”.
In between the Conferences, two MPs pushed the envelope. First, John Redwood and then David Davis proffered an English parliament though a constitutional settlement would require answers to the future of the House of Lords, Wales and Northern Ireland and how they might complete the jigsaw. Latterly, Frank Field MP noted in a letter in The Guardian the identical solution I proposed earlier in the year of four lower but equal national parliaments with a senate over the top uniting the kingdom.
It has taken over 100 years to reform the House of Lords so it would be a safe bet that nothing will change in our life time.
In the meantime and understandably, our political parties are jockeying for iSpace in the media as the general election bears down on them. Let us hope there will never be five year fixed term parliaments again as the current incumbents have just run out of steam. As the old maxim goes you mainly win elections in four (1955, 1959, 1970, 1983, 1987, 2001 and 2005) and lose in five (1964, 1979, 1997, 2010 and maybe 2015).
Buying a House
The housing market needs major surgery by Derek Wyatt
A first time buyer has to find a deposit, pay for a survey where a chartered surveyor cannot be held responsible for his/her report (extraordinary) but nevertheless, it will still set the would-be owner back a thousand pounds or so. Then there’s the stamp duty to fork out: it is 3% over £250k and under £500k (so anything between £7.5kand £15k) and if you’re in the money, 4% over £500k and under £1m (£20k and £40k).
So before the estate agents and solicitors fees come a- knocking a £500k flat for a 25 year old will cost £50k (deposit), £1k chartered surveyor, sometimes £1k or more for fixing a mortgage, £900 for council tax, £900 for building and content insurance and £15k for stamp duty. Solicitor’s fees will be around £800 and unless you negotiated skilfully with an estate agent you could be charged between 1% and 3% of the sale (say £5k or £15k plus VAT).
In total and without the removal vans (£1k) and any furniture, thisamounts to a large headache and a justifiable hang over. You will need close to £75k. In other words to put yourself onto the property ladder in London you will have to find an additional £25k (one third) on top of any deposit.This is simply unreasonable.
The government should bring in a first time buyer’s charter: a minimum deposit of 5%; no stamp duty but there would be a £3k sales tax when the property was sold and estate agents would be restricted to charging a maximum of £2k (inc VAT) up to £500k and £3k up to £650k. Within months of its introduction, a new breed of entrepreneurs would have arrived to offer a one stopshop for first time buyers.
It would be too much for the government to do anything about this appalling situation for our children and grandchildren but might there an MP out there who would like to bring in a Private Member’s Bill to do this before next May?
I wouldn’t bet on it (plus VAT).